The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Personal Data Protection Bill on Thursday questioned tech giant Google and e-commerce company Paytm about Chinese investment in their businesses, NDTV reported.
Unidentified officials told the news channel that Google was specifically asked about its links with China. The committee also asked Google how much revenue it generated and the amount of corporate tax it paid in India. The company was asked to give the details in writing.
The officials added that the questioning of the two companies focused on “conflict of interest”. They were also asked how neutral they were in managing online content and where the two companies hosted users’ data.
Representatives from Google told the committee that the company had walked out of China on its own, Hindustan Times reported. The committee, however, sought to know if Google still had links with China, since its Android software is used by several mobile phone makers in the country.
Paytm said that though Chinese firm Alibaba was one of its investors, it did not have any say in the company’s operations.
Google representatives told the committee that India should avoid data localisation requirements, according to The Indian Express. They said that the requirements were not fit to protect privacy and security, which upset certain members of the committee.
The company said in a statement that it hoped to help the committee protect the interests of Indian citizens. “We believe that regulation can support a dynamic marketplace for businesses of all types and sizes,” a spokesperson for the company was quoted as saying by PTI. “We sincerely hope this consultative process will help the Committee achieve its objective of protecting the interests of citizens and promoting innovation.”
The spokesperson added: “Our goal is to create the best possible products for users, from Search to Android to YouTube, making relevant information readily accessible around the world.”
The parliamentary committee headed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Meenakshi Lekhi is looking into the concerns raised by the Congress about the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019.
Facebook’s former India policy head Ankhi Das had appeared before the panel last Friday. The representatives of Facebook India were asked some “tough and searching questions”, PTI said, quoting unidentified officials. During the meeting, a member of the panel suggested that Facebook should not draw inferences from the data of its users for commercial benefit of its advertisers. Das resigned on Tuesday.
Facebook came under intense scrutiny after a report published in the Wall Street Journal on August 14 said that Das had opposed removing incendiary posts by BJP leaders. A memo by a data scientist who was fired from Facebook Inc had also revealed that the social media company ignored or was slow to deal with fake accounts that have affected elections around the world.